Shamrock Rovers leave it late to see off Longford

Liam Scales scores a 95th-minute header as champions edge basement side in Tallaght

Liam Scales leaps to score Shamrock Rovers’ winner against Longford Town. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

Liam Scales leaps to score Shamrock Rovers’ winner against Longford Town. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

 

Shamrock Rovers 1 Longford Town 0

It was déjà vu all over again as Shamrock Rovers beat bottom side Longford Town with a stoppage time winner for the third time this season, on this occasion courtesy of a stunning 95th minute headed goal from Liam Scales on the defender’s 23rd birthday.

Rovers thus remain three points clear of St Patrick’s Athletic at the top of the table - with a game in hand - ahead of travelling to Albania for the second leg of their Europa Conference League third qualifying round clash on Thursday.

Without a win in 22 games and now 12 points adrift at the bottom, Longford look increasingly doomed to relegation.

Rovers head coach Stephen Bradley made six changes from their 1-0 win over KF Teuta last Thursday with match winner, Aidomo Emakhu, given his full debut up front.

The 17-year-old was the recipient of some roughhouse treatment early on, Town left-back Paddy Kirk fortunate to receive just a yellow card for an over the top challenge. Aaron O’Driscoll then fouled the youngster just outside the box with Graham Burke drilling the resulting free kick past a post.

Played in by Sean Hoare, Burke worked Lee Steacy between the visitors posts for the first time on 13 minutes.

Seconds later a route one approach brought Longford an opening, Aaron Dobbs running onto O’Driscoll’s long ball to win a corner off Hoops’ captain Roberto Lopes.

Cross channel transfer target Scales then showed his defensive capability to halt the run of Town’s Rob Manley with a perfectly timed tackle.

Rovers, though, continued to dominate the ball, Richie Towell driving a free kick into the arms of Steacy ahead Emakhu blasting over the bar.

In a surprisingly slow burner of a second half, it was the 67th minute before Rovers troubled the Longford defence, Rory Gaffney shooting over following an incisive run by fellow substitute Danny Mandroiu and Burke’s lay off.

Sean Kavanagh looked poised to finally break the deadlock on 87 minutes, but shot straight at Steacy.

The Longford keeper then produced stops from the hardworking Burke and Mandroiu, while the former saw a header come back off a post seconds before Rovers finally got their reward in the fifth minute of added time.

A quick throw gave Hoare space to whip over a deep cross from the right. Scales towered above a defender to power a colossal header to the top corner.

Shamrock Rovers: Mannus; Hoare, Lopes, Scales; Murphy (Finn, 66), McCann (Watts, 61), Towell (Mandroiu, 61), Kavanagh (Grace, 89); Burke, Emakhu (Gaffney, 62), Greene.

Longford Town: Steacy; McNally (J. Manley, 85), McDonnell, O’Driscoll, Kirk; Zambra, Dervin; R. Manley, O’Brien (Robinson, 62), Grimes (Chambers, 62); Dobbs (Warfield, 73).

Referee: Rob Hennessy (Clare).

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